Last updated: May 3
Kazakhstan: Coronavirus prompting many to reassess priorities
Post-coronavirus life will bring fewer debts and more time with the family. Maybe.
Azerbaijanis in lockdown send love letters to their president
The trend is evocative of Azerbaijan’s Soviet past, when young pioneers wrote precocious letters to the editor about the nation’s astute leaders.
Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan implement tentative coronavirus exit strategies
Businesses are being allowed to reopen and people to take in some fresh air.
Tajikistan finally confirms its first 15 coronavirus cases
Questions will be asked why this announcement came so late.
Armenians protest premier for failing to stand up to Gazprom
Protestors violated the state of emergency to say Pashinyan broke his promise.
Uzbekistan’s coronavirus information lockdown prompts questions
Officials are jealously maintaining control over information while orchestrating suspiciously rosy accounts of a country on the mend.
Tajikistan admits to pneumonia crisis, but not coronavirus
Officials say 136 medical workers at one hospital have been diagnosed with the respiratory illness.
Azerbaijan’s banks showing signs of strain
The government has been trying to prop up the national currency amid a collapse in oil prices, but the financial sector is suffering.
Turkmenistan: Fast times at Ashgabat hippodrome
The Horse Day holiday embodies two activities greatly favored by the Turkmen state: definitely wasting money and probably fudging facts.
Kyrgyzstan’s sewing industry reorients to survive coronavirus slump
Some enterprising souls have seized the moment to keep their businesses alive. Their main problem now is government flip-flopping and bureaucratic hurdles.
WHO role in Tajikistan’s coronavirus-free narrative under scrutiny
The WHO is refusing to answer questions while it appears to support the government’s increasingly dubious claims.
- Nationwide state of emergency with businesses and schools closed.
- Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinyan said on April 30 that a recent spike in registered COVID-119 cases would not delay plans to begin reopening the economy on May 4.
- On April 28 Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said he hoped to allow all businesses to reopen within 10 days. He made the announcement as new coronavirus infections are on the increase. Two days earlier, Health Minister Arsen Torosian warned that hospitals were nearing capacity.
- As of April 28, people are allowed to exercise within 1 kilometer of their home. They must still carry a piece of paper stating their reasons for being outside.
- The armed forces will no longer disclose the number of infected soldiers or soldiers in self-isolation, OC Media reported on April 13.
As economic activity stopped, dust levels in Yerevan’s air fell 41 percent in April after falling 31 percent in March, OC Media reported on April 27, citing a government survey.
The government has spent over $90 million on the crisis so far, Armenian public radio reported on April 24.
Armenia's finance minister said on April 23 that he expects the economy to contract by 2 percent this year, compared to earlier predictions of 4.9 percent growth. The resulting decline in tax revenues will require the government to borrow an additional $500 million, he said.
Gazprom Armenia, a subsidiary of the Russian state energy firm, announced on April 22 that it would begin cutting off gas for residents who do not pay their bills within three days. Earlier in April Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to reduce the price Armenia pays for Russian gas, to reflect falling prices on international markets.
- Schools and most stores closed. Traffic between regions banned; parks closed. The government on May 1 extended the quarantine regime through May 31. Borders are closed until the end of May, as well.
- Anyone wishing to leave home must first notify the police. People 65 and older are prohibited from leaving their homes unless they are healthcare workers. Some stores will be allowed to reopen on April 27, the government said. People will still need to text their intentions to the police department.
- Some 300 health workers have been infected with COVID-19, making about 19 percent of registered cases, authorities said on April 24.
State oil company SOCAR will reduce output by 96,000 barrels per day in May and June. It does not expect any mass layoffs, the company said in an April 30 statement.
Baku continues to defend the manat's dollar peg. In the latest sign of strain in the financial industry, the Central Bank appointed temporary administrators at four banks on April 27. Fitch Ratings revised its outlook for Azerbaijan from stable to negative, criticizing Baku’s insistence on defending the manat.
- State of emergency. Schools, most shops and open-air markets closed. There has been a nightly curfew since March 30. Gatherings of more than three people are banned.
- Georgia lifted some restrictions on transportation in private vehicles and taxis on April 27. Markets were allowed to reopen open, but the agriculture minister said most must remain closed for sanitary reasons. The curfew remains in place.
- Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia unveiled an anti-crisis plan on April 24 that would ease some restrictions, allowing markets to reopen, deliveries to resume and taxis to begin operating again on April 27. Roughly two weeks later, he said, construction will be allowed to resume. Perhaps two weeks after that, stores will reopen. Only at a fourth stage, after another interval of two weeks according to this plan, will restaurants and malls be allowed to resume operations.
- The government has helped 8,3072 Georgian citizens return home since the COVID-19 outbreak began, Interpress reported on April 28.
- Once public transportation resumes, there will be people aboard to tell travelers where and how to sit and stand, Interpress quoted Tbilisi Mayor Kakha Kaladze as saying on April 28.
Georgia will begin priority testing journalists, OC Media reported on April 29.
Health Minister Ekaterine Tikaradze denied reports that there are too few medical workers in Georgia's rural regions, Interpress reported on April 28. Most doctors who have been infected, she added, were not infected at work.
Georgia has reached its infection peak, Paata Imnadze, deputy director of the National Center for Disease Control, said on April 27.
Dismissing media speculation that Georgia is hiding its true infection figures, Marina Ezugbaia, the director of Tbilisi’s infectious diseases hospital, said on April 27 that if that were the case, hospitals would be far more crowded.
- The Georgian Church continues to refuse to stop sharing communion spoons, earning rebuke from many Georgians fearful the sacrament could spread the virus. During his Easter mass, the patriarch said that rejecting communion is akin to rejecting Christ.
- “Receiving communion from a common spoon carries the risk of spreading the infection and does not require any special scientific research, Tengiz Tsertsvadze, director of the Infectious Diseases Hospital, told reporters on April 23, days after Health Minister Ekaterine Tikaradze said she wasn't sure if communion spoons could transmit the disease.
- A number of COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in the Church.
Economy Minister Natia Turnava said on May 1 that she believes Georgia can resume some international flights, but that decisions depend on foreign partners.
Essential agricultural workers will be allowed in and out of the capital with a special permit between 6-8 a.m. and 6-7 p.m., Civil.ge reported on April 29.
The National Bank of Georgia reduced its benchmark refinancing rate by half a percent on April 29 to 8.5 percent, as it expects demand to fall with the ongoing economic contraction, Civil.ge reported.
Fitch Ratings revised Georgia’s outlook to negative on April 27, predicting the economy will contract 4.8 percent in 2020 with a sharp rise in deficit spending.
The government will spend 3.5 billion lari, or roughly $1.1 billion, on crisis mitigation, the prime minister said on April 24.
- Abkhazia: The region lifted some restrictions on April 20, reopening markets and ending a curfew in two regions. The de facto government declared a state of emergency on March 27 and stopped public transportation. It banned tourists, the mainstay of the economy, and closed most businesses.
- Abkhazia registered its first COVID-19 death, Georgian media reported on April 27.
- The de facto president of Nagorno-Karabakh declared a state of emergency on April 12, Hetq.am reported. Eight cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the region. On April 28, authorities ended curfews in some districts.
- South Ossetia, Georgia's other breakaway region, closed its border with Russia on April 5, including for freight, sealing the contested territory off from the world. On April 10, the closure was extended to May 1.
- State of emergency, borders closed. Schools closed.
- Parliament passed a revised state of emergency law on April 29 that broadly expands the president’s powers.
The government announced on April 29 that some businesses would be allowed to reopen on May 4 and that citizens could resume exercising outdoors.
- Flights will resume between the two largest cities on May 1, and to four other cities on May 4. Six passengers were not allowed to board the first flight to Nur-Sultan because they lacked certificates showing they had tested negative for COVID-19.
- Border guards intercepted a shipment of 1 million face masks being transported illegally to the border with Russia, Tengrinews reported on May 1. The packages were disguised as food.
- Reports of domestic violence increased fourfold between February and April.
- An inmate in a female prison colony was diagnosed with COVID-19 on April 26. Rights activists have asked authorities to declare an amnesty for non-violent offenders, RFE/RL reported.
- During a visit to a new infections diseases hospital on April 23, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said his government had not done enough to protect health workers. About 29 percent of the country's registered infections are among medics.
- Kazakhstan has distributed 3.4 billion tenge ($7.9 million) in extra payments to over 17,000 medical workers, Tengrinews reported on April 23.
Under the terms of the OPEC+ agreement, Kazakhstan will reduce oil production by 390,000 barrels per day, the Energy Ministry said on May 1. The day before the state oil company announced it had laid off 34 percent of staff at its Nur-Sultan headquarters.
Three more workers at Kazakhstan’s flagship Tengiz oil field have been diagnosed with COVID-19, bringing the total to 68, Fergana reported on April 29. Earlier, hundreds of Tengiz workers were refusing to show up for their shifts, fearing the disease is spreading rapidly onsite.
Farmers in southern Kazakhstan's Turkestan region say they are unable to take their cabbage crop to market due to roadblocks, Tengrinews reported on April 28. Truckloads that would have been sold to Russia are going to waste, they say, offering anyone who can get to them to come take cabbage for free.
The central bank announced on April 21 that it would begin limiting cash withdrawals for companies on June 1, Reuters reported.
- State of emergency, schools closed. Nightly curfew in the largest cities.
- From May 1, the government will allow some small businesses to reopen.
- A Kyrgyz lawmaker on April 30 asked the government to be more careful when it prepares resolutions on the state of emergency, 24.kg reported. "Does Kyrgyzstan even have mechanical engineering? Couldn't you at least try to hide the fact you just copied Kazakhstan's resolution?" MP Kanybek Imanaliev said.
- It is illegal to gather in groups of more than three people in the capital, Bishkek. People are allowed out of their homes to shop for food so long as the store is within 1.5 kilometers. Pets may be taken no further than 100 meters of their owners’ home.
- The annual “Immortal Regiment” parade honoring those who died during World War II will be held online this year, the Culture Ministry said.
- Graduating student exams have been moved from May to late June, the government said on April 30. Students sitting exams will be placed at appropriate distances and testing halls will be disinfected.
- Reports of domestic violence are up 62 percent year-on-year, the Bishkek Commandant Almazbek Orozaliev said on April 24.
- One in four cases of COVID-19 has been found in healthcare workers. On April 22, the government said it would place healthcare workers in hotels to minimize the risk they could infect their families.
- Kyrgyzstan's chief Muslim cleric called on believers April 16 not to observe public worship or iftar meals during Ramadan, which starts next week.
- Deputy Health Minister Nurbolot Usenbaev said on April 14 that half of Kyrgyzstan’s ventilators are not working (365 of 649 work).
Deputy Prime Minister Erkin Asrandiev said on April 30 that the government will not be able to offer a detailed report on how foreign aid is spent. “There was a proposal to show data on itemized use of external assistance. The existing system does not allow this. There is a single account where taxes, customs payments, and external assistance are received,” Asrandiev said.
Bishkek is in talks with China’s Export-Import Bank to restructure its $1.8 billion debt, Reuters reported on April 29.
The national energy holding company said on April 20 that due to the COVID-19 lockdown and the economic impact of commercial subscribers not paying, repair work and preparations for the upcoming heating season may not be completed on time.
Citing the Ministry of Labor and Social Development, the OECD estimated in an April 15 report that 1.8 million workers of 2.6 million in the formal labor force are now unemployed. Informal unemployment is already high.
After weeks of denials and apparent government coverups, on April 30 authorities confirmed the first 15 cases of COVID-19 in two geographically distant regions.
Schools had been closed on April 25. The government also suspended its domestic football league on April 26.
Mass gatherings, including for Ramadan, are banned and medical face masks are mandatory in public.
The World Bank predicted up to 21,000 people could die of COVID-19 in Tajikistan, Asia-Plus reported on May 1.
President Emomali Rahmon has donated a month's pay to the coronavirus fight, Asia-Plus reported on May 1, noting that it did not have enough information to calculate what this means. The president has also allocated 12.4 million somoni ($1.2 million) to make additional payments to doctors.
An activist in the north has begun raising funds to purchase personal protective equipment for medical workers, Asia-Plus reported on April 28.
The Health Ministry does not know how many ventilators are in the country, Asia-Plus reported on April 2.
On April 25 the government banned the export of basic food items including cereals, legumes, eggs, potatoes and meat, RFE/RL reported. The UN had reported price increases for food basics on April 17 compared to the previous week: "for wheat flour (4-9 percent), cotton oil (2-9 percent), carrots (18-36 percent) and onion (6-11 percent) in several markets, and potato (20-46 percent)." The World Food Program has classified the food price spike as a "crisis" in the country.
The overall volume of cash transfers from Russia decreased between 30 and 35 percent in March compared to last year, according to two of the major payment systems, RBK reported on April 7. Tajikistan is among the most remittance-dependent country in the world. Tajik workers in Russia send home billions of dollars per year, equivalent to about 30 percent of GDP.
Authorities marshaled thousands of spectators into packed stadiums to celebrate Horse Day, a local holiday, on April 25 and 26. "After a long discussion," judges determined that a horse belonging to strongman President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov was the most beautiful.
Turkmenistan continues to insist it has not registered any cases of COVID-19. "We're not hiding anything," Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov told a meeting of foreign officials on April 22, in response to concerns the country's figures are unreliable. "If there was a single confirmed coronavirus case, we would have immediately informed ... the World Health Organization in line with our obligations," Reuters quoted him as saying. Meredov also offered foreign officials a chance to visit a quarantine center.
Vienna-based news website Chronicles of Turkmenistan on April 14 cited unidentified sources as saying that at least seven people are being held in isolation in the city of Turkmenabat after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
As Eurasianet's weekly Turkmenistan reported on April 28: Shortages of flour in the Lebap province have compelled residents to take to grinding corn to produce a substitute. “In most state-owned stores, it has for several weeks become impossible to find cheap bread and flour,” an Azatlyk correspondent reported on April 24. Salaries are so low in some regions that state stores are the only viable way to obtain staple goods. Imported fruit and other products have reportedly appeared in Ashgabat's markets, however, albeit at significantly inflated prices.
Said the OECD on April 15: "Turkmenistan has one of the highest ratios of out-of-pocket spending to total health expenditure in the world, which means that the costs of a major COVID outbreak might be passed onto an economically precarious population, particularly at a time when public finances are likely to come under severe pressure ... Growth will fall markedly in 2020."
- State of emergency. Borders closed. Schools closed. Public transportation suspended. Travel by car in cities banned. Public Ramadan celebrations banned by fatwa.
- While announcing that the situation is “stabilizing,” on April 29 President Mirziyoyev said people could come outside to exercise with their children and use nearby playgrounds.
- In cities, anyone found outside without a valid reason may be fined up to 6.6 million sum (almost $700), Podrobno.uz reported, or about three times the average monthly wage.
- RFE/RL’s Uzbek service reported on April 27 that it had received hundreds of “identical” letters from teachers praising President Mirziyoyev’s coronavirus response. The news outlet, which has been denied accreditation in the country, likened the letter-writing campaign to a “troll factory.”
- Ten Uzbek hospitals have set up video links for distance medical consultations with two Chinese hospitals in Jiangxi Province, Podrobno.uz reported on April 28.
- Six medical facilities in Tashkent have been placed under quarantine after people infected with COVID-19 were found inside, Podrobno reported on April 23. Uzbekistan does not routinely publish figures on the number of medical workers infected with the disease.
Uzbekistan delivered its fourth shipment of humanitarian aid to Russia this month on April 29 -- five million medical masks and gauze -- Podrobno.uz reported.
The president said on April 29 that he had tasked the Prosecutor’s office with overseeing transportation for agricultural products to cities.
The Finance Ministry has postponed indefinitely a move to liberalize energy prices, Gazeta.uz reported on April 23. The plan to raise prices, unveiled last August, was designed to attract foreign investment.
Foreign trade turnover in the first quarter fell 11 percent year-on-year, the state statistics committee said on April 21. Gold accounted for 30 percent of exports.
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